IABC Revamps Gold Quill Awards

I write regularly about awards programs in the PR, marketing and communications industries, so I was thrilled to receive an email last week, announcing significant updates to one of the major honors – IABC’s Gold Quill awards.

Full disclosure: I’m a member of the International Association of Business Communicators and have served as a first-tier judge for the Gold Quills several times in the last two decades. Perhaps that makes me biased, but I’m convinced these changes will lead to a program that offers greater ease of entry and even better judging.

What’s changing and what does it mean for you? I’m working from an Aug. 30 email, from IABC Chair Kerby Meyers, which notes several important updates:

Online entries! – Yes, that deserves an exclamation point! The Gold Quills were the last major program to require a mailed entry. Sure, I’m an advocate of advance planning for award entries, but the reality is that most entrants are prepping their materials up to the very last minute. Relying on overnight delivery – and cramming everything into a giant notebook that had to meet a long list of requirements for how it looked and how it was organized – made the process that much more fraught. Now, every entry will be standardized thanks to online forms, and entrants have an extra 24 hours to double-check their submissions.

Longer entry period – There’s little excuse to be copy-and-pasting your entry into the online form five minutes before the deadline. According to the email, the Gold Quill program will open in October and entries will be accepted through the March 2013 deadline.

Standardized training for judges – Starting with the 2013 Gold Quill program, judges will be required to complete a training that ensures they are International Awards Evaluators in Good Standing, according to IABC. This, I think, will make the Gold Quills an exceptional awards program. In my experience (and not just as a judge for IABC), there’s a range of expertise in the judging room that includes long-time judges and newbies, 30-year marketing pros and new graduates in their first communications role. I don’t draw these distinctions to say that one is better than the other – judging should never be based on who’s been a judge before. What’s most valuable to the program and entrants alike is a consistent, fair, standardized set of judging criteria and a formalized way of training judges to understand and apply those criteria. For those interested in becoming an Evaluator in Good Standing, IABC will be communicating further information next month.

Those are the biggies. Additional changes include:

Eliminating first-tier evaluations – Now all entries will be judged by the aforementioned trained evaluators serving on a blue ribbon panel in one of five countries: the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Australia, and South Africa.

Introducing a new scoring sheet – This ensures even more feedback on each part of the entrant’s workplan, which should be a welcome addition for everyone submitting work.

Adding more guidance for entrants – IABC already offers comprehensive guides, webinars and social media chats related to entry preparation, as well as a mentor program for members who haven’t won a Gold Quill. It’s always highly recommended that entrants make use of these; you’ll find a list of opportunities here, as well as under the Resources tab in the Gold Quill section of the IABC website. (Note that these will be updated with the just-announced program additions as the 2013 program gets under way in the next month.)

The IABC email mentions that the 2013 call for entries will be announced in late September, and available on the IABC website.

Related posts on writing a competitive entry for all of the major PR, marketing and communications awards programs:

Table of contents of No Bad Language posts on awards
Advance planning for writing a strong award program entry for your work